St Andrew’s Dartmouth – 58th anniversary

As people called together by the grace of God

to study, serve and celebrate the victory of Christ’s resurrection,

we find ourselves faced with countless questions.

Ours is a life-long search for guidance, revelation

and (let’s be honest) a word of hopeful comfort.

As disciples of Jesus Christ we are draw together in worship,

we gather in study and prayer – in work and play –

seeking signs of the Spirit at work (in us and around us),

always trying to honour God, the source of life and love…

but it can be hard to keep our focus.

 

You have been involved in that search together, here at St Andrew’s,

for fifty eight years now – a time marked by many challenges and changes.

The Christian church in North America

was having its heyday when your congregation was first constituted –

your early history is the time the church generally points to as the “wonder-years”

when all was good and right – when ‘business was booming’.

 

It is not difficult for Christians in Canada – and for you in this place –

to look and see the generous hand of God at work,

whether or not our congregations have a long, storied history,

or – like here at St Andrew’s, you still have a youthful bounce in your step.

And yet, it is hard to be completely at ease.

True, we have our freedom – we are not persecuted for our faith –

We are welcome to witness

and we are privileged to be able to participate in the life of the community

in ways that speak plainly of our understanding of divine justice – mercy and love.

But the place of the church in society is not what it once was.

Increasingly, ours are practical struggles – bills to pay, a new social reality to navigate –

and we lose sight of our theological purpose

 

So today, as I celebrate in worship with you,

even as I come giving thanks for your various ministries

and praising your faithfulness in the work entrusted to you –

I bring a reminder of a reality that is, if we are being honest,

the sort of thing we come to church to avoid.

+++++++++++++++++++++

What do we make of Jesus;

whose words of blessing – at least in Luke’s gospel – are followed so quickly

by warnings for those who have already realized some measure of,

for lack of a better word, success?

These ancient words of comfort from Luke’s gospel especially

are enough to make our ears tingle.

 

Rather than assurance that “the best is yet to come’ – which is what we want to hear –

Jesus seems to say that the tables have been turned;

woe to you who are rich…who are full…who are laughing…

Jesus is talking to us, but he also seems to be talking about us.

You know what I mean…

There are those who would tell us that the church has had its day –

that our years of plenty – our years of power and influence –

are well and truly behind us.

Still others who contend that, in our fall from public prominence,

we are only getting what we deserve.

“…you have received your consolation…you will be hungry…you will mourn and weep.”

 

But this is not prophecy. This is observation.

 

Others say it differently; “There is a time for everything under the sun…”

Matthew’s gospel, full of optimism from the beginning, ignores the woe.

And Paul writing from his own harsh reality draws our attention

to the point on which the pendulum swings:

 

 

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,

may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that,

with the eyes of your heart enlightened,

you may know what is the hope to which he has called you,

what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,

and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe…”

 

 

These are words that call us from introspection

(and our worry about where in the cycle of blessing/woe we happen to be),

and draw us to our source of strength, the source of blessing, the Father of Glory.

 

Paul is speaking about us and to us;

reminding us that our service is offered

in the midst of a measure of chaos and uncertainty.

Paul recognizes the process – the journey of our lives in faith,

that draws us, by the mystery of grace, towards fullness and eternal glory.

We know this – or at least, in some level of our selves we sense that it is true –

and so we continue to gather in faith.

We do not grow tired of living in the light of God’s ancient and eternal promises.

We accept with gratitude Jesus final appeal – one that cuts across the polarizing possibilities of his ‘observations’ – that call to love no matter what

and in love, we claim that glorious inheritance that is ours in Jesus Christ.

 

And so, with Paul, I give thanks to God for your love toward all the saints –

I rejoice with you on your history of challenge and celebration

and encourage you, in love, to be faithful to the One whose grace feeds us at this table

whose love is daily saving us – whose Spirit of mercy shepherds us

through the tumult and triumph of our life’s journey. Amen

 

 

 

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